Keeping track of employees from a distance: Monitoring technologies and related legal considerations for teleworking

Most of our clients are adapting to employees working at home quite well. As many of those look at this becoming a longer-term part of their business, some questions arise.

  • If the employees home is also their office, how are employers responsible for ensuring their health and safety?
  • How do employers track and monitor the hours an employee has worked?
  • Can employers track e-mails, internet traffic etc?

This article provides a bit of insight and suggestions for process and policies around the issue that may be of assistance.

Due to COVID-19, teleworking has become the new norm in Canada and many parts of the world. In the traditional physical workplace, employers are generally permitted to take certain reasonable steps to observe or supervise what employees are doing throughout the day. In part, this is because the workplace is not considered a private space and it is normally reasonable for employers to exert control over what employees do in the workplace in the general course of their employment-related duties.


New Ontario ESA changes – the COVID-19 period has been extended to 2021

More information on the extended IDE leave. This changes extends the protections for employers and employees until the new year.

Earlier this summer the Ontario government made a number of important changes to employment standards laws in response to COVID-19. These changes, which affected the rules around temporary layoffs as well as temporary reductions in hours or wages, were intended to remain in effect until September 4, 2020. However, late last week the Ontario government announced that the “COVID-19 period” is being extended until January 2, 2021, which means that the changes will remain in effect for several more months.


Ontario Employers – Are You in Compliance – 2020?

Employers with employees in Ontario often ask us to confirm legislative requirements under various employment statutes, including mandatory postings, training, and policies under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the Accessibility for Ontarian’s with Disabilities Act.

To make this information conveniently available, the Littler Toronto assembled these requirements into a single publication. This was originally posted in August 2017 and George Vassos at Littler has ensure that has been updated as required. An updated version of this publication can now be accessed through the link below.

These apply to ALL Ontario Employers.  Make sure you are compliant.

Ontario Mandatory Postings

Exclusive Mainstay client benefit – Free Access to HR toolkit

Just a reminder that Mainstay clients have free access to a HR templates and resources with the HR toolkit below. Now is a great time to sign up.

Clients often tell us that you need HR, that you don’t know where to start, who to call, what to do.  And too often, end up do nothing.

You’ve been heard!  Mainstay has entered into a program with ConnectsUs HR ™ so you can take advantage of the proven HR package made for Canadian small business and compliant for Ontario, Alberta and BC.

The best part?  There’s no cost to you – we’ve picked up the tab! You won’t even have to provide a credit card. Simply enter the Program Code as directed in the link below. (if you don’t have a code, let us know)

Click here  to find out more and get started on your HR today! 

The Employer’s COVID-19 Return to the Workplace Playbook

I saw this document and thought you might find it useful as we proceed through the coming months. There are some great checklists to help you remember things to consider, links to resources and more.

As the provincial governments in Canada proceed with cautiously reopening the doors to the economy, many employers are in the process of making plans for reopening their own doors and considering how to do so safely. Irrespective of government announcements, employers will need to make their own determinations as to whether, when and how they will reopen their physical workplaces, keeping in mind their duties to their employees and stakeholders. Having a rational and documented plan in place for reopening will be necessary to ensure a smooth transition back to work.

This guide outlines the key considerations for employers in putting together such plans. A comprehensive chart of return to work resources for employers from the World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control, the Canadian Federal Government and each Provincial Government and Provincial health authorities can be accessed via the link set out below.


TELUS 2020 Drug Data Trends & National Benchmark Report

Each year at our renewal meeting we discuss your employees claims as well as industry trends that drive costs. If you’re interested in learning more about these, the Telus report shares data from across the majority of the private payer industry.

A few highlights

  • The eligible monthly cost per insured increased 7.6% in 2019, compared to a decline of 2.4% in 2018.
  • Ontario’s OHIP+ program, which removed insureds under the age of 25 in that province from the book of business for all of 2018 and the first three months of 2019, certainly had an impact.
  • Eligible costs jumped by 10.2% in Ontario in 2019; when insureds under the age of 25 are removed, this drops to 5.4%.
  • The average annual eligible cost per claimant was $769.13, compared to $675.95 in 2015.
  • Generic drugs accounted for 63% of prescriptions filled by private drug plans in 2019, up from 58% five years ago.
  • Specialty drugs’ share of eligible costs has more than doubled in the past 10 years, from 14% in 2010 to 30% in 2019.

More information and the full report are here.

COVID Surcharges

As things start to slowly return to a new normal, we are seeing service such as massage, dental and other medical services start to open up.

I’ve polled my dental surgeon, dental hygenist and dentist friends and they are all back at it and ramping up pretty fast. Still, they are seeing fewer patients per day, and a long way from normal.

With this increased usage comes claims. With the claims, come questions and I am expecting lots in the coming months with most being about COVID surcharges.

Generally, extra charges over the Reasonable & Customary (R&C) fees, and over provincial dental fee guides are not eligible for reimbursement by plans. This is to protect benefit plans from abuse and overcharging and thereby keeping them affordable.  The Ontario Dental Association (ODA)(and presumably others) have added PPE codes to their fee guide in preparation for the expected increased costs. The problem we have is that we are still waiting for the CRA to see if the claims can be reimbursed by plans.

Currently personal protective equipment is NOT an eligible medical expense (think work boots, welding gloves & shields, non-prescription safety glasses, hard hats etc.) so we would need to have CRA make some changes before plans would be allowed to pay them (assuming employers wanted that).

I mention this issue as employees may ask their employers about this in the coming months. It is not as simple as us asking for an exception, as it could be offside and potentially make plans taxable. We are pushing for help on this from a variety of sources, but not getting any clear direction just yet.  Give us time, I’m working on it.

Tax Implications of Working from Home

I’ve had several clients reach out because staff have asked for T2200 forms to cover expenses while working remotely. I am not going to wade into this and suggest you speak to your accountant.  That said, I thought this was interesting and glad to see they are looking into it more..

As business environments shift in response to COVID-19, companies are managing employees remotely. Working from home (WFH) has become the “new normal” for a lot of organizations, as we all do our part to keep our communities healthy.

Crowe MacKay’s tax team suspects the next question that is on everyone’s mind is – what are the tax implications of working from home? How does having your employees work from home impact you as an employer as well as them from a tax standpoint? Here’s how you can begin to navigate this as it relates to your 2020 taxes.


100+ guidelines, plus tip sheets and posters, to promote working safely

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has provided a ton of resources to help employers returning staff to the workforce.  Take a look, some of the posters and checklists may save you the time of creating your own.

Resources for working safely during the COVID-19 outbreak, aimed at employers and workers, are available online. These include guidelines for numerous jobs and sectors, as well as downloadable workplace posters and graphic tip sheets.